Watch The Skeptic's Guide to American History

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Sorting through misconceptions, myths, and half-truths about America's past is a chance to revisit some of the country's greatest episodes, figures, and themes from a fresh perspective and an opportunity to hone the way you think about and interpret the past, the present, and even the future. This course examines many commonly held myths and half-truths about American history.

The Skeptic's Guide to American History is a series that is currently running and has 1 seasons (24 episodes). The series first aired on July 13, 2012.

The Skeptic's Guide to American History is available for streaming on the The Great Courses Signature Collection website, both individual episodes and full seasons. You can also watch The Skeptic's Guide to American History on demand at Amazon Prime, Amazon, Kanopy online.

The Great Courses Signature Collection
1 Season, 24 Episodes
July 13, 2012
Cast: Mark Stoler
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The Skeptic's Guide to American History Full Episode Guide

  • Who in history do we choose to remember, and why? Take in the extraordinary accomplishments of several Americans - including John Adams, John Quincy Adams, and George C. Marshall - whose achievements and influence may well have exceeded those of many of the great figures more vividly remembered.

  • Vietnam is far from America's only misunderstood war. This lecture delves into the common myths and misunderstandings shared by many Americans about why the nation's wars have been fought and how the results have been judged.

  • FDR was simultaneously one of the most beloved and most hated of U.S. presidents. Explore what the New Deal attempted and accomplished - as well as its intended and unintended consequences - as you grasp its role in creating the economic and political systems of today's America.

  • Herbert Hoover came to the White House regarded as both a skilled manager and great humanitarian, yet left the presidency perceived as just the opposite. Gain an understanding of how this could happen through a detailed examination of both his forgotten accomplishments and his often misunderstood failures.

  • Were the 1920s really a return to isolationism and the values of the late 19th century? Uncover a decade far more complex than is generally believed, as you learn how much of the change begun during the progressive era continued - in many ways setting the stage for contemporary America.

  • How, exactly, should past presidents be judged? A provocative examination of Woodrow Wilson's presidency - judged a great success by some and a profound failure by others - provides an opportunity to explore the broader issues of presidential ratings in general.

  • Many liberals see the roots of their philosophy in progressivism, but this is misleading. Learn how progressivism also included many ideas - such as eugenics, limits on free speech, and restrictions on immigration - that would have outraged modern liberals.

  • Was the United States ever as isolationist and opposed to imperialism as is commonly believed? Explore the myth and reality surrounding our historical self-image and learn how America's expansionist history might appear from the perspectives of other nations.

  • Although often seen as a dramatic reversal of historical government support for labor, today's efforts to scale back collective bargaining rights are actually a reassertion of policy with a long precedent. Learn that the pro-union policies of the New Deal represent the real break with the past.

  • Is a reference to someone as a "populist" praise or criticism? Does it have any reference to where a person stands on the political spectrum? This lecture analyzes the nation's original populist movement and what links - if any - it has to contemporary namesakes.

  • Discover how perceptions of Gettysburg as the Civil War's "turning point" are inaccurate. Here, examine three battles that were arguably more important and gain new insights into what determines - in any war - how meaningful a battle really was.

  • By analyzing this question and the different answers posed by generations of historians, you begin to understand "historiography" - the study of the writing of history - and take a key step in your understanding of history itself.

  • Andrew Jackson's election ushered in an era marked by much democratic reform. Ironically, as you'll learn, the man who would be seen as the symbol of such reform actually opposed much of it and championed many policies that few today would call democratic.

  • Jefferson and Hamilton held sharply differing views on policy and constitutional interpretation. Learn how their conflict - often thought of in terms of our contemporary understanding of liberalism and conservatism - is actually relevant to us in very different ways from those we imagine.

  • Set aside the hagiography that helped shape George Washington's image and undertake a balanced examination that measures his military and presidential failings against his numerous successes. See how some of the least known of those successes may have been his most important contributions to American history.

  • Gain a nuanced understanding of what the Founders' "original intent" really was and how so many of the questions they grappled with divided them for their entire lives - ultimately being bequeathed to their successors and persisting even to this day.

  • Continue this new approach to understanding history with a look at efforts of the colonists to defend their "rights as Englishmen" and the ironic role played by European tyrannies in helping establish the nation that would forever change the definition of liberty.

  • Learn the key elements of a broadened approach to the study of history with this fast-moving examination of the origins of religious and racial tolerance in America. Grasp how the assumptions you've long held can differ dramatically from historical reality. #History